Botox Basics

Botulinum toxin. Bet you can’t say that three times fast! It’s the scientific name for that seemingly magical elixir often known as Botox. Botox treats a variety of annoying cosmetic issues, including severe brow furrow, uncontrollable blinking, lazy eye, wrinkles, and facial creases. It’s also commonly used on forehead lines, crow’s feet, and frown lines, and it remedies a number of minor medical issues, such as excessive sweating, writer’s cramp, and facial spasms.

Dermatologists love Botox because it requires only a few simple facial injections and is one of the safest, most affordable and non-invasive cosmetic anti-aging treatments available. Botox’s other advantages include the fact that it only causes mild side effects and offers instant results and temporary effects — a good thing if you aren’t exactly pleased with the outcome!

How does Botox work exactly?

A neurotoxin, Botox attaches itself to nerve endings, thereby blocking acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter responsible for triggering muscle contractions. Botox injections temporarily relax the facial muscles that underlie and cause wrinkles such as frown lines, forehead furrows, and crow’s feet. (Unfortunately, wrinkles caused by sun damage and gravity do not respond to Botox treatment.) And Botox can do more than make you pretty. In addition to its cosmetic-enhancing powers, Botox’s effects on muscle tissue can treat medical conditions such as uncontrolled blinking and lazy eye.

With Botox, you don’t have to wait long to see results. Botox generally takes three to seven days to work as it begins to settle into the injection site, and its effects typically last four to six months. Once lines and wrinkles begin to reappear and muscle contractions return, you’ll need to be treated again. Over time, however, those lines and wrinkles will appear less severe as Botox trains the muscles to relax.

Ten days prior to receiving a Botox treatment, you should stop taking products that contain aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E and similar ingredients. Doing so will significantly reduce the chance of bruising following treatment.

What can you expect during a Botox procedure?

Botox is quick and painless. Your physician will consult with you beforehand to determine the best treatment for your needs. Fifteen minutes prior to the actual procedure, he or she will apply a topical numbing cream to the treatment area. Once the skin is adequately numbed, the underlying muscles will receive six to eight injections. Most patients report that the injections feel similar to getting vaccinated – you’ll feel only a few seconds of slight discomfort as the Botox enters the dermis. You might notice the treatment site looks red and feels irritated for a few hours afterwards.

Directly after the treatment, you’ll be asked to contract the treated muscles by frowning, raising your eyebrows, smiling and puckering. This helps to evenly distribute the Botox throughout the treatment site. Your physician will also advise you to refrain from exercising, bending over, lying down or rubbing the area for the first 24-48 hours after treatment. This ensures that the Botox settles in the right place and doesn’t migrate. If you fail to do so, you can experience facial paralysis and eye drooping.

But don’t worry; side effects from Botox are relatively rare. Of course, as with any cosmetic treatment, they can happen. The most common side effect of Botox injections is temporary bruising, followed by headaches lasting some 24-48 hours. Eyelid drooping may also happen, but it’s extremely rare and usually subsides within three weeks. People who are pregnant, breastfeeding or who suffer from neurological disorders are not eligible for Botox injections.

How does Botox stack up in the end?

The bad news first: Botox does have its limitations. Not all wrinkles respond to Botox, particularly wrinkles resulting from sun damage and unusually deep-set wrinkles. With repeated use, Botox also has the potential to create new wrinkles, and over-usage of Botox can result in unnatural facial expressions that can inhibit you from being as expressive.

That being said, Botox is one of the most innovative and effective anti-aging treatments on the market. With proper consultation and administration by a trained physician, Botox can make you look years younger – in fact, studies have shown that a few years of regular Botox injections can make you look five years younger than your actual age! Botox is a fast, convenient and virtually painless alternative to more invasive, expensive cosmetic procedures such as face or eyebrow lifts. There’s really no downside with Botox. If you’re tired of those bothersome wrinkles, consider melting them away with Botox.